The relationship between them is extraordinary: victim and oppressor; friend and confidante
The title of this play is perhaps too much of a giveaway. Under normal circumstances I might be surprised or even shocked to find a young woman in captivity, but it seems quite matter-of-course. Even among the mess of boxes filled with clothes, the refrigerator, the bed and the table she’s very easy to spot seated by the radiator, rather like a dog in its basket. What does come as surprise is the extent of her bark. Given her plight I imagined she would be the timid and terrified victim of a wider sadistic ritual. In reality, quite the opposite is true. She has a considerable degree of influence and control and it is Stephen who is socially inept and lacking in confidence.
The relationship between the two is explored through preparations they are making for a dinner party at which there will be Stephen and a mysterious date he has somehow managed to secure. If in any doubt about his personal and social skills you need only look at what he is expecting her to eat and all the fuss about what he should wear.
The relationship between them is extraordinary: victim and oppressor; friend and confidante. It also seems very cosy. I could imagine Stephen, if confronted with the fact of having a woman chained to his radiator, saying, ‘Well doesn’t everyone?’ This is Stockholm Syndrome in extremis. The lines are funny in places and often politically incorrect, generating a ‘Did he really say that?’ response.
Alex Wells-King creates a marked contrast in Stephen’s character between his apparent control of the situation and command of the flat and the jibbering wreck of a man facing what other men would regard as a standard date. Perhaps it is the very normality of the pending situation that unnerves him. Conversely, Monica Forero’s imprisoned Woman seems rational and practical; almost a mother to Stephen which is possibly where it all started to go wrong for him. Throughout the scene they feed off each other in the rapid exchanges; the banter and quips providing some very humorous moments. The wit is off-the-cuff, casual and well-timed in classic British style.
This is a play that can be enjoyed in the moment but can be reflected upon afterwards to appreciate the ludicrous nature of the situation. This is black comedy and theatre of the absurd, not realism. You have to keep reminding yourself that it really is not normal keep a woman in your flat chained to a radiator.